BY Vincent Lyn

Here with James Kofi Annan — President and Social Justice Advocate for Challenging Heights

Location: Senya, Ghana, West Africa

The mission was to stop and arrest slave masters from trafficking and enslaving young boys and girls between the ages of 5–15. Senya is a coastal town with a population of 40,000 people. It is a very busy fishing community but also infamous for the buying and selling of enslaving children. The children are then taken six hours north to Lake Volta where they are put through long rigorous sixteen-hour workdays in the fishing industry. It is exhausting and brutal work and many children are starved and tortured and some enslaved for as along as 10 years. Some are lucky enough to escape the horrors but so many simply die an unimaginable suffering.

Lake Volta, Ghana is the largest man-made lake in the world by surface area. It was built by U.S engineers during the 1960’s and is a major source of hydroelectric power not only Ghana, but for many neighboring countries. It is also the 4th largest in terms of volume. The Volta Lake was formed as a result of the construction of the Akosombo Dam when the Volta River was dammed to produce hydroelectric power for Ghana. The size of Lake Volta spans 4 distinct regions in Ghana namely the Volta, Eastern, Brong-Ahafo and Northern Regions. The Lake Volta alone covers about 3.6 % of Ghana’s land space. It is an area of about 8,502 square kilometers and extends in length to over 400 kilometers. The Lake Volta, Ghana is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world and a major source of foreign exchange to Ghana. The Black Volta and White Volta are the major inflows to the Lake Volta while the Volta River is the major outflow for Lake Volta.

Challenging Heights the organization started by James Kofi Annan who was a child slave for many years and eventually escaped from slavery. An incredible human being a true hero, some of you will remember him from his heart rendering speech he gave at my Carnegie Hall concert in 2015. I was working with James and Challenging Heights in Ghana having had tremendous success in the rescuing and recovery of trafficked children. Not only in rescue but also in psychosocial care, rehabilitation and eventual reintegration with the extended families. It was going to be a good day bringing these perpetrators to justice at least that’s what we planned and had thought. But things don’t always go as planned and in my work they never seem to. The fishing community was thriving and as busy as always. To a regular person looking on nothing would’ve seemed out of place. Today we had all eyes on point. Security teams in place, local law enforcement backing us up and even the national TV news crew were waiting on the sidelines to record the arrests. It was a green light and every department was ready for action. I along with members of the team were meandering through the crowds positioning ourselves while security personnel were ready to overwhelm the opposition if things got out of hand. At the 11th hour we get a call from the Ministry of Government Affairs telling us to cease and desist otherwise we would be arrested, when they were the ones who had originally agreed to the mission.

It just so happened that this was a presidential change over and they didn’t want to show that the crisis of child trafficking was happening in Ghana, as it would be an embarrassment to the newly elected official. It was so disheartening with all the planning, man-hours it had taken to plan this mission to no avail. James Kofi immediately went on national news blasting the government at risk to him-self being arrested. It showed later that evening on TV all across Ghana and caused such bad press for the government that James came under heavy scrutiny. His life was threatened, and the government threatened to close his shelters that he had opened 15 years ago. It was a real mess but because of his worldwide notoriety the government had to eventually let things ride.

The damage had been done and that day the innocent children paid the ultimate price. Boys and girls were everywhere being ready to be auctioned off on the chopping block. It was an awful thing to witness knowing you could do absolutely nothing, all because of politics. I remember seeing a small boy sitting on the stone steps with raggedy pants, no shirt or shoes. He was physically uncomfortable scratching himself, looking nervous and scared and as much as I did not want to, I quickly took a photo of him that is posted here. After James had conducted his TV interview we walked up the steps leading away from the congestion of the crowd and we saw two young girls sitting next to each other also on the stone steps. They couldn’t have been more than 10 or 11 years of age holding hands and also looking sad and scared. James looked at me and unemotionally said they will both be sold this afternoon for $20 each. That’s right, the average price of a child is $20 the price of a movie ticket. I exclaimed in a loud voice and we can’t do anything about it, we just have to walk away while these innocent children get sold into slavery? We had no choice. You realize quickly that the powers that be are really fu…. up.

I will never forget that day because it lit a fire underneath me that made my resolve stronger than ever. It’s a fight that will never be over. I came back to the U.S and I remember going to the army and navy store in NYC. I needed some good socks for sub Saharan Africa. I had taken winter socks by mistake with me so my feet were itching and sweating. The owner of the store who recognized me from past visits said forget looking at the ones on the display I’ve got really good ones. He started rummaging through a large box and threw a pair on the counter. I told him I would take three pairs. I asked how much? $20 each. I answered that’s pricey for one pair of socks. He said, “Do you want the best”? So I bought three pairs. As I walked outside it was raining hard and it just hit me that I just spent $60 on three pairs of socks the equivalent price of three children I had just witnessed sold into slavery. I immediately sat down on the stoop of a store step and cried. It’s amazing what sticks in your memories. The number 20 is now always synonymous with me for that reason.

Fishing Village in Senya, Ghana — A boy sits waiting possibly to be sold into slavery

Vincent Lyn

CEO/Founder at We Can Save Children

Director of Creative Development at African Views Organization

Economic & Social Council at United Nations

Rescue & Recovery Specialist at International Confederation of Police & Security Experts



CEO-We Can Save Children. Director Creative Development-African Views Organization, ECOSOC at United Nations. International Human Rights Commission (IHRC)

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Vincent Lyn

CEO-We Can Save Children. Director Creative Development-African Views Organization, ECOSOC at United Nations. International Human Rights Commission (IHRC)